BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Mellie is Snow White’s supposedly wicked stepmother, but she’s been misunderstood for centuries by the one-sided telling of the fairy tale. Now, she’s out to set the story straight and redeem the reputation of stepparents everywhere, but she’s going about it all wrong. Prince “Dave” Charming, one of the several Princes Charming, tries to help her, and they fall for each other.
PROS: Wonderful world-building and nicely drawn characters.; Wickedly Charming is a fun foray into the paranormal romance genre.
CONS: The limitations of the paranormal romance genre hobble Grayson’s story.
BOTTOM LINE: Grayson brings a sweet touch of reality to one of the most maligned characters in fairy tales.
Can you lambaste a sonnet for being so short?
Wickedly Charming is a genre paranormal romance published by a genre publisher, and thus it must stick to the formula for such books, including length and development of certain plot lines. The author does not have the luxury of chasing every literary squirrel that runs across her path in the quest for deathless prose.
The main story in Wickedly Charming is that Mellie, Snow White’s allegedly wicked stepmother, has been grossly misrepresented all these centuries. Now, she’s trying to take back her image by (in the beginning) trying to ban books that misrepresent her and other stepmothers. She takes her fight to a book convention. You can imagine the reaction of booksellers, authors, and publishing industry folks to a group that wants to ban books: runs the gamut from eye-rolling to hostility.
There, she meets a man who calls himself Dave who is also from the fairy tale lands, the Third Kingdom. He’s charming. Really charming. Indeed, he’s Prince Charming, one of them, anyway. Specifically, he’s Cinderella’s now-divorced Prince Charming (not her own son-in-law; that would be weird.) He tries to help Mellie find a more constructive way to reform the Wicked Stepmother stereotype, which leads to them writing a novel together. Eventually, they fall for each other, and because Mellie is really a very good stepmother, she helps him with his daughters’ adjustment problems and problems with Ella, his narcissistic ex.
This novel is a “sweet” romance, meaning the sex scenes are discreet and few. If you’re looking for spicy or steamy erotica, look elsewhere. The characters are sweetly drawn, change over the novel as needed, and are cute together. The plot holds together nicely and gives the reader some nice insight into the magical world of the Fates Series.
The world-building of the Third Kingdom versus the Greater World is especially interesting. It’s interesting enough that I plan to read more of Grayson’s Fates novels.
So how do you judge a book such as a genre paranormal romance and determine how many stars to label it with?
If I give Wickedly Charming five out of five stars, that suggests that it’s up there with excellent comedic romances, like Emma by Jane Austen, which is also much longer, or it has the same attention to maligned-character character backstory as Wicked by Gregory Maguire, also a much longer novel. Wickedly Charming is a fun novel with an engaging premise, well-drawn characters, and interesting plot developments, but it can’t compare with Emma or Wicked. Thus, I rank Wickedly Charming four out of five stars, in comparison to all books because it competently does exactly what the writer set out to do and does it quite well.
It seems like there should be a special scale to rank certain books. For example, you cannot compare any random one of Shakespeare’s sonnets to The Rape of Lucrece, a long form, or Macbeth. At the most, you could say that the sonnet stuck to its rhyme scheme but seems incomplete.
So goes reviewing a genre paranormal romance. As a work of literature (and I read widely, very widely,) Wickedly Charming sticks to its genre and hints at a wider story. Thus, I propose a “Sparkly Heart” rating scale for genre paranormal romances, where I can wholeheartedly give Wickedly Charming 5 out of 5 Sparkly Hearts, because it is a very good romance novel.
T.K. Kenyon is an Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate, novelist, award-winning short story writer, pharmaceutical industry regulatory consultant, molecular virologist, neuroscientist, minivan-driving mom, happy wife, cat slave, capsaicin addict, caffeine junkie, unapologetic Oxfordian, political moderate with extremist tendencies, ASU Sun Devil, Iowa Hawkeye, UPenn Quaker, and always looking for something interesting to do. She tweets at: @TKKenyon and blogs at TKKenyon.blogspot.com.